While Epilepsy is not always treatable, there are several methods of intervention and treatment to be explored with a medical team. The ultimate goal is seizure freedom and without side effects, but that is not attainable for all at this time. The most common approach to treatment is found in prescription drugs.
Medication is almost always the first therapy explored and provides seizure resolution or about 7 out of 10 people with epilepsy. There are several different families of Anti-Epileptic Drugs. Explore the seizure medication list on epilepsy.com. Once taking prescriptions for seizures, there are many factors to consider.
The most common side effects associated with epilepsy medicines are: drowsiness, irritability, nausea, rash, and clumsiness. Some drugs produce changes in emotions, memory or behavior, or affect learning. In many cases, side effects occur at the beginning of treatment and may become less troublesome or even disappear as the body adjusts. Starting out at high doses may also increase side effects; therefore, most epilepsy drugs are usually started at a lower dose followed by gradual increases.
It is critically important to take epilepsy medications in the dose and at the times prescribed. Blood levels of medications are important with many epilepsy drugs. If the levels are too low, the medication will be ineffective. If it is too high, toxic side-effects can result. Your doctor may order blood tests to check the level of medication in your blood.
The Epilepsy Foundation has compiled information on how medications work, side effects, drug interactions, the importance to adherence, discontinuing medication and more in their review of Seizures and Epilepsy Medicines.
There are instances in which medications need to be administered to provide instant relief from a seizure. There are a variety of rescue medications to be explored and multiple methods for administration.
The utilization of cannabis as a medical treatment method for epilepsy is emerging rapidly. There is evidence that cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of marijuana can be effective in controlling seizures. The Epilepsy Foundation has been active in the exploration of medical marijuana as an option and has compiled information to explain the process by which CBD works and the latest findings research has unveiled. This particular treatment option has limitations because of the laws in each state. Even the laws in our region vary.
HB 1 (2013) – The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act
SB 2636 (2014) – Adding seizures to debilitating medical conditions, and creating access for minors.
SB 10 (2016) – Adding PTSD and terminal illnesses and extending expiration to July 1, 2020.
SF 2360 (2014) – The “Medical Cannabidiol Act,” which allows licensed neurologists to certify patients with intractable epilepsy to use cannabidiol (CBD) products with 3% or less THC content.
HF 233 (2017) – Expanding CBD access to Iowans with chronic conditions, including epilepsy.
When seizure freedom is not achieved through medication alone, surgical approaches might be considered. Surgery is not exclusive to epilepsy caused by structural issues in the brain. It is being considered earlier on in the epilepsy journey and is performed in new ways that are less invasive than ever. Find more information regarding surgical candidacy, expectations, tests, types and life after surgery.
In the ever-changing world of technology, exploration of medical devices has made its way into the world of epilepsy. Some devices are utilized for seizure treatment while others serve a seizure alert function. There are a growing number of devices with which to familiarize yourself and even apps to help with seizure tracking.
Some of our favorite high-tech gadgets for managing epilepsy include:
VNS: Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS Therapy®) is designed to prevent seizures by sending regular, mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain via the vagus nerve. These pulses are supplied by a device something like a pacemaker.
RNS: The RNS® System is the first device to provide responsive neurostimulation, automatically monitoring brain signals and providing stimulation to abnormal electrical events just when it is needed.
Embrace SmartWatch: The Embrace is the first medical-quality smartwatch that helps predict epileptic seizures, and measure stress, activity and sleep.
SAMi Cam: SAMi is a patent-pending sleep activity monitor for caregivers and individuals who need to carefully watch for abnormal activity at night.
Using primarily with children whose seizures have not responded to other treatments, the ketogenic diet is a strictly monitored diet high in fats and low in carbohydrates. When rigidly adhered to and fine-tuned by a medical team, it has been shown to help two out of three children with epilepsy. If the diet seems to be working, doctors will usually prescribe it for two years.
Aim for Zero!
While this campaign is focused on SUDEP prevention, these 4 methods are great lifestyle tips to manage your epilepsy as well.